Is It Time to Freak Out Over Inflation Yet?

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Amidst the asset bubbles, energy rationing, and this month’s vegetable price inflation, a lot of folks are worried. Although there isn’t a† longstanding tradition of polling the population on these kinds of economic concerns, if I were the government, this unscientific survey would have me feeling mighty uncomfortable:

Chinese netizens have conducted heated online discussions to choose the character of the year, with (zhang), indicating price rises, the most popular so far.

Tianya.cn, a popular online forum in China, opened a platform for Internet users to nominate the “Character of the Year 2010” on Nov 2. The nomination had attracted more than 100,000 clicks and 4,000 replies by 4:30 pm on Tuesday. And zhang attracted more than 80,000 clicks.

Good news for ?, not so stellar news for a government keen on battling inflation. The back story to all of this is rather sobering as well.

Since the beginning of 2010, the price of sugar has increased 100 percent and the price of garlic ten-fold in some regions of China. Hot pepper rose from 4 yuan ($0.60) a kilogram to 40 yuan in May in Beijing, and the price of potatoes surged 84.8 percent from January to June.

Prices of pork, eggs, ginger, silk, mung beans, cotton, soybeans, bean oil and even apples have also jumped month by month, earlier reports showed.

Price controls have reportedly been put into effect for some products, plus China has released stores from the strategic pork reserve (I am not making that up).

Besides zhang, characters such as huang (flurried), yuan (resentment), tan (sigh) and chai (demolish) were also popular choices for the character of the year, according to Ying Jianqun, head of the press department of Tianya.cn.

“This year’s nominations reflect changes in people’s living conditions,” Ying said. “Because of inflation, some feel flurried, some are resentful and some just sigh. Other people are worried that their homes will be demolished.”

Netizens are so pissy, aren’t they? No votes for anything positive? Why no ‘happy’, ‘love’, or ‘joyous’?